Josh Barfield had a relatively short big league career. Now the farm director for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 40-year-old son of 1980s outfielder Jesse Barfield played for the San Diego Padres in 2006, and for the Cleveland Indians from 2007-2009. I asked the erstwhile infielder whom he considers the most talented of his former teammates.
“I think I’d have to say Grady Sizemore,” replied Barfield. “He was ridiculously talented. He could do just about everything on the field. Probably the best player overall — the best career — was Mike Piazza, but for pure talent it would be Grady.”
Sizemore debuted with Cleveland and accumulated 27.3 WAR — — only Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and Alex Rodriguez had more — from 2005-2008 in his age 22-25 seasons. He made three All-Star teams, won two Gold Gloves, and logged a 129 wRC+ with 107 home runs and 115 stolen bases over that four-year-stretch. A string of injuries followed, torpedoing what might have been a brilliant career. When all was said and done, Sizemore had just 29.7 WAR.
Other former teammates who stand out for Barfield were Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Cameron, and Victor Martinez, the last of whom he called the most gifted hitter of the group.
“Victor would go up there and call his shot,” said Barfield. “He would say, ‘I’m going to sit on a breaking ball here,’ then he’d spit on two fastballs, and when they hung a breaking ball he would hit it into the bullpen. He was really fun to watch hit, because he was playing chess up there a lot of times.”
Martinez was arguably among the most-underrated hitters of this generation. From 2004-2014, the sweet-swinging, switch-hitting catcher/first baseman slashed a robust .307/.374/.479 with 339 doubles, 187 home runs, and a 127 wRC+. Moreover, he raked in the postseason, putting up a .315/.374/.503 line over 163 plate appearances.
A full-length interview with Barfield, focusing on player development and several of the promising young players in the Diamondbacks system, will be included in our full slate of Prospect Week content, which kicks off tomorrow.
RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS
Woody English went 7 for 16 against Kent Greenfield.
Bob Dernier went 6 for 13 against Danny Cox.
David Justice went 6 for 11 against Lance Painter.
Bobby Thomson went 4 for 8 against Thornton Kipper.
Klondike Smith went 1 for 4 against Boardwalk Brown.
Vinnie Pasquantino brought up Freddie Freeman in his recent Talks Hitting interview, citing the six-time All-Star and 2020 NL MVP as an example of a first baseman who thrives with a line-drive approach. Grant Lavigne did the same when I talked to him during the Arizona Fall League. Much like Freeman and Pasquantino, the left-handed-hitting Colorado Rockies first-base prospect isn’t looking to launch, but rather to drive balls into gaps.
His 2022 numbers reflect that approach. In 524 plate appearances split between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford, the 23-year-old New Hampshire native slashed .283/.379/.423 with just 10 home runs. Given his size — Lavigne is listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds — and positional profile, the lack of power production is clearly working against him. Lavigne claimed not to be overly concerned when we spoke in Arizona, but something else he said suggests that clearing more fences is indeed a goal.
“I’m trying out a new bat,” explained Lavigne. “I’ve previously just used one with a regular knob. This one has an extra inch on it, and an extra ounce. It kind of helps my barrel path. Sometimes I have a tendency to be too East-West — I can be really flat — and that can obviously result in a lot of ground balls. I feel like this one helps me be more North-South, staying through pitches, and driving the ball in the air.”
The bat that Lavigne was trying out in the AFL measured 34-and-three-quarters inches, and 32-and-a-half ounces.
Ryan Loutos has arguably the most unique pitching prospect profile in baseball. Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent out of a D-III school, the 24-year-old right-hander advanced to Triple-A last year in his first full professional season. That’s only half of what separates him from his peers. The Washington University graduate has also been working for the teams as a part-time analyst.
Loutos was a guest on Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio, and one of the questions I asked was whether the Cardinals signed him as a pitcher first and an analyst second, or the other way around.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever know for sure,” replied Loutos, who appeared in 46 games between three levels last year. “But my guess is, looking back objectively, they signed me as an analyst first. I don’t think they thought I’d be in big-league camp here in 2023.”
How Loutos learned that he’d be joining the Cardinals organization is another interesting part of the story.
“They were the only team that I had a conversation with, really,” Loutos said on the pod. “I didn’t even have a conversation with them. They called me in the 18th round to tell me that I wasn’t getting drafted [but] that I was going to be the first guy they sign after the draft… It was kind of funny how it worked out. It was dead silent around draft time. I didn’t talk to any other teams.”
Which player has been charged with the most errors since the turn of the century (2000)?
The answer can be found below.
Longtime Men’s National Team pitching coach Denis Boucher is one of four people who will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this year. The others are Jesse Barfield, Rich Harden, and Joe Wiwchar.
The recipients of SABR’s 2023 Henry Chadwick Award, which honor the game’s great researchers, are Steve Gietschier, Mark Rucker, and Robert Whiting. More information can be found here.
The full schedule for the 2023 SABR Analytics Conference is now out. It can be found here.
Matt Daniels has joined the Minnesota Twins organization in the role of Pitching Development & Acquisitions Specialist. The Driveline alum spent the last three years with the San Francisco Giants.
Brian Dubois, a left-handed pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in 1989 and 1990, died earlier this week at age 55. Acquired by Detroit from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Keith Moreland, Dubois made 18 big-league appearances and went 3-9 with a 3.82 ERA and one save.
Ron Tompkins, a right-hander who pitched for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965, and the Chicago Cubs in 1971, died earlier this month at age 78. Tompkins lost both of his career decisions, the first of them an extra-innings defeat to the New York Mets in which Ken Singleton drove in the deciding run and Nolan Ryan got the win in relief.
The answer to the quiz is Adrián Beltré, who was charged with 269 of his 311 career errors from 2000 onward. Elvis Andrus, who has the fourth-highest total since 2000, has the most among active players.
Regular readers of this column know that I like to ask minor-league hitters which pitcher they’ve faced in the current (or previous) season most had them walking back to the dugout thinking, “Man, this guy is nasty.” I recently posed to the question to Sal Frelick, whose first full professional season started in High-A and ended in Triple-A.
“I think I’ve got to go with Eury Pérez from the Marlins,” replied the 2021 first-rounder, who is No. 3 on our Milwaukee Brewers Top Prospects list. “He’s maybe 18 or 19 years old and he looks like LeBron James. He’s big, and he’s throwing about 99 [mph]. I remember seeing this kid and being like, ‘He can’t be 18 — however old he was — and throwing this hard, with that good of off-speed.”
Pérez, who is listed at 6-foot-8, celebrated his 19th birthday early last season. The Santiago, Dominican Republic native is widely regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the game.
Blake Sabol is a player to watch this spring. Selected by the Cincinnati Reds in last winter’s Rule 5 draft and subsequently swapped to the San Francisco Giants, the 25-year-old will have to either break camp with his new team or be offered back to the Pittsburgh Pirates. His profile is intriguing. Sabol — featured here at FanGraphs in November — has an uncertain defensive future, but is coming off of a 2022 season where he homered 19 times while logging a robust 130 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A.
I asked Ben Cherington about Sabol shortly before he was taken in the Rule 5.
“He’s caught, played first, and played a corner outfield,” the Pirates GM told me. “He’s good offensive player and we’re trying to find a way to maximize his offensive gifts. The catching thing came, mostly because… he approached us two springs ago and said, ‘Hey, I used to catch, and then in college they wouldn’t let me catch — but I think I can catch.’ We thought, ‘Sure, let’s give it a shot.’ So, he’s been catching and has done a pretty good job. He’s a left-handed hitter who has a chance to be a catcher/first base/corner player who provides good offense. He’s not too far away.”
The Book of Joe, by Joe Maddon and Tom Verducci includes an anecdote that is equal parts entertaining and head-scratchingly exasperating. Per the authors, when the New York Yankees acquired Graeme Lloyd in 1996, George Steinbrenner approached the left-hander and told him that he was sorry about the problem in his native Australia. When Lloyd asked him what he was referring to, Steinbrenner said, “The one where all the barbers died.” Lloyd got the message and had his locks cut.
The Yankees’ long-outdated hair policy, which inexplicably still exists, was borderline embarrassing when “The Boss” gave Lloyd the coyly-phrases ultimatum. Nearly three decades later, it is no longer borderline.
LINKS YOU’LL LIKE
Sportsnet Canada won’t resume on-site radio broadcasts for road games this season and will instead provide remote coverage from its downtown Toronto studio. Gregory Strong wrote about the inexplicable decision for The Toronto Star.
John Jaso walked away from MLB at age 34, five years ago, and now spends much of his time on a sailboat. David Gardner has the story at The New York Times.
Jung-hoo Lee 이정후 — expected to be posted by the Kiwoom Heroes next year — is generating plenty of buzz in the lead-up to the WBC. Jeeho Yoo wrote about the attention the KBO superstar has been getting for the Yonhap News Agency.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello presented us with five hitters who he feels are poised to break out this season.
MiLB.com’s Josh Jackson wrote about the Calumet Aristocrats, a minor-league team in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from 1904-1907.
RANDOM FACTS AND STATS
Javier Báez had 354 assists and 17 throwing errors last season. Xander Bogaerts had 401 assists and four throwing errors.
Tim McCarver had 1,501 hits, 548 walks, and 422 strikeouts.
Buster Posey had 1,500 hits, 540 walks, and 721 strikeouts.
Mike Bordick had 1,500 hits, 500 walks, and 800 strikeouts.
Aaron Boone played in 1,152 games, had 1,017 hits, and 1,645 total bases.
Scott Brosius played in 1,146 games, had 1,001 hits, and 1,640 total bases.
On today’s date in 1982, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Ozzie Smith from the San Diego Padres as part of a six-player deal that also included Sixto Lezcano and Gary Templeton. “The Wizard” won Gold Gloves and was an All-Star in each of his first 11 seasons as a Cardinal.
The Cleveland Indians signed Luke Easter on today’s date in 1949. A first baseman who had been starring for the Negro National League’s Homestead Grays, Easter joined Larry Doby in the Cleveland lineup and went on to play parts of six MLB seasons.
Players born on today’s date include Gail Hopkins, a first baseman for the Chicago White Sox from 1968-1970, the Kansas City Royals from 1971-1973, and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974. Hopkins logged 324 MLB hits — including 25 home runs — before going on to play three seasons in Japan and earn both a PH.D. and an M.D.
Also born on today’s date was Brad Kilby, a left-hander who went 1-0 with a 1.07 ERA while throwing 25-and-a-third innings with the Oakland Athletics in 2009-2010. Kilby’s ERA is the lowest in big-league history among pitchers with at least 25 innings.
In 1914, the Western Canada League’s Moose Jaw Robin Hoods had an outfielder named Ten Million. Per his Baseball-Reference bio page, that was his real name.